Henrik Poulsen, Executive Manager and Director of Winemaking
As winemaker for Acumen, Henrik Poulsen has a very clear focus: make wine that is an honest and joyous expression of the vineyard. Part of this preoccupation lies with his own winemaking philosophy, but it is equally a nod to the distinctive nature of Acumen’s organically-farmed vineyards on Atlas Peak. The high-elevation climate, volcanic soils and long growing season provide Acumen with fruit that has fully mature flavors while retaining complex structure due to naturally higher levels of tannin, a quality that is prized by Henrik.
As the executive manager and director of winemaking for Acumen, acclaimed winemaker Henrik Poulsen guides a team dedicated to creating the next great Napa Valley wine estate. With a philosophy deeply rooted in Acumen’s two remarkable estate vineyards, and a winemaking approach that takes its inspiration from the legendary Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons of the 1960s and 1970s, Henrik crafts classically structured mountain-grown wines that are recognized for their balance, vineyard-driven complexity and age-worthiness.
Born in Denmark, Henrik was raised in a wine-loving family, and he purchased his first bottle of classified Bordeaux when he was just 14 years old. While attending university in Copenhagen, Henrik found himself falling deeper under wine’s spell. As he began reading books about wine, attending tastings, and working in a local wine shop, he realized that wine was his true path. He soon left school and traveled to Bordeaux to gain hands-on winemaking experience working at Château de Haux. In 2000, after meeting Newton Vineyard Founder Su Hua Newton in Paris, Henrik moved to Napa Valley, eager to gain a more global winemaking perspective. Over the next six years, he immersed himself in the world of Napa Valley wine, while working alongside renowned European winemakers Luc Morlet, and later Jean Hoefliger.
In 2006, following Newton’s purchase by LVMH, Henrik and Jean joined the founding team at Alpha Omega, where they quickly established it as one of the most exciting wineries in Napa Valley. There, Henrik made wines using grapes from some of Napa Valley’s greatest vineyards, including Stagecoach, and Beckstoffer’s To Kalon, Dr. Crane and Georges III vineyards. During his seven years at Alpha Omega, he gained invaluable experience from legendary consultant and master blender Michel Rolland. While at Alpha Omega, Henrik also had the opportunity to explore some of the great Napa Valley wines of the ‘60s and ‘70s.
“Experiencing the great older Napa Valley wines was a revelation,” says Henrik. “I was deeply impressed by their complexity and longevity. It was an epiphany to see many of the qualities I loved about the greatest wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux realized in a uniquely Napa Valley way.” After founding his own Release Winery, and a wine consulting business, Henrik joined Acumen in 2013 as director of winemaking, working alongside founding winemaker—and Château Latour veteran—Denis Malbec. Together, Denis and Henrik established the Acumen style, crafting wines that artfully balance the robust mountain tannins of Atlas Peak with the nuance and complexity of Acumen’s two exceptional estate vineyards.
Today, as both director of winemaking and executive manager, Henrik collaborates with Viticulturist Garrett Buckland and Vineyard Manager Jesus Gonzalez to grow grapes that possess perfect phenolic ipeness, while still retaining complex structure due to their naturally high tannin levels. To tame these robust tannins, in the winery Henrik uses special yeasts, cool fermentations, gentle extractions and ideal cooperage pairings to create silky wines with the structure to reward long-term cellaring. “Our aim is to make wines with an ideal balance between tannin, acid, intensity and fruit;” adds Henrik, “wines that celebrate the character of each new vintage, and the complexity of our Atlas Peak estate vineyards.”
Garrett Buckland, Viticulturist
In the world of winegrowing, Garrett Buckland is recognized as a viticultural master known for elevating the quality of already exceptional sites to Grand Cru-caliber vineyards, while cultivating some of the finest grapes in the world. Born and raised in Napa Valley, Garrett is a second generation viticulturist, who honed his craft working at his father’s Buckland Vineyard Management. In the years since, Garrett has helped to steward some of Napa Valley’s most renowned vineyards, including Araujo, Dalla Valle, Realm, Knights Bridge and Hall, and in 2016, he was elected president of the Napa Valley Grapegrowers association. Since 2012, Garrett has applied his decades of winegrowing experience and viticultural knowledge to the care of Acumen’s vineyards on Atlas Peak, with the goal of establishing them as Napa Valley’s next great wine estate.
The son of noted viticulturist Al Buckland, Garrett learned to drive a tractor when he was four, and spent his summers working for his father’s vineyard management company. While studying viticulture and enology at UC Davis, Garrett gained additional experience at both Foundation Plant Services and the Department of Plant Pathology. After earning his degree, he spent the next seven years as the winemaker for Perry Creek Winery, during which time he also cofounded Premiere Viticultural Services. Adding to his encyclopedic knowledge of winegrowing, Garrett is also a partner at VineInfo, a vineyard software company and viticultural database for ultra-premium winegrowers.
In 2012, when Eric Yuan set out to establish Acumen in Napa Valley, he sought out Garrett’s expertise in selecting Acumen’s vineyards. Searching for the ideal terroir to make beautifully structured wines of uncommon depth and purity, Garrett guided Eric to the high-mountain slopes of Atlas Peak. There, with temperatures often 10 degrees cooler than on the valley floor, the grapes ripen slowly, yielding wines of dazzling charm and purity. After helping to evaluate and select Acumen’s Attelas and Edcora vineyards, Garrett stayed on at Acumen, and has guided the estate’s viticultural program ever since.
Combining lifelong, hands-on winegrowing and vineyard management experience, with years of winemaking expertise and leading-edge technological know-how, Garrett has earned acclaim as a visionary viticulturist. Since joining the Acumen team, he has dedicated himself to coaxing the full potential from the Attelas and Edcora vineyards, through replanting with elite clone and rootstock materials, and the use of state-of-the-art soil preparation methods, trellising, irrigation techniques, diagonal row orientations, and more. In keeping with Acumen’s commitment to the environment, Garrett also oversaw the conversion of both vineyards to organic farming, which resulted in organic certification in 2016.
“Because of how remote it is, and the cost and difficulty of growing grapes here, Atlas Peak has long been a diamond in the rough,” says Garrett. “Working with Vineyard Manager Jesus Gonzalez and his talented team, we are giving every acre of vines at Attelas and Edcora an average of almost 300 hours of handwork each vintage. This is an almost unheard of level of care, and the diamond is starting to shine. Acumen’s estate vineyards on Atlas Peak will one day be considered among the world’s finest.”
Many top wineries have turned to Buckland for his expertise in planting or managing their vineyards, including Araujo, Warren Winiarski, Realm, Knight’s Bridge, Baldacci Family and Kathryn Hall. He has a degree in viticulture and enology from U.C. Davis and serves as president of the Napa Valley Grape Growers.
Gordon Waggoner, Director of Sales
As director of sales, Gordon Waggoner is dedicated to telling the remarkable story ofAcumen and its Atlas Peak estate vineyards. A team builder, strategic thinker and storyteller, Gordon brings a wealth of experience to his role, having worked as a wine buyer, distributor, and for almost a decade, as a director of sales for elite Napa Valley wineries that focus on mountain-grown wines. Combining his many talents, Gordon has emerged as a powerful voice for the Atlas Peak AVA and Acumen, introducing the region and its beautifully complex and structured Cabernet Sauvignons to wine enthusiasts around the globe.
Gordon was born and raised in Northern Virginia, and began a career as a professional actor during high school. While burnishing his storytelling skills as an actor over the next decade, Gordon also worked in fine dining, where he quickly developed a love of wine. In 2004, this led to Gordon becoming the assistant food and beverage manager for the Park Hyatt in Los Angeles, and later general manager for the Park Grill at The InterContinental Los Angeles. “I love the diversity of wine, and the fact that it is an intersection point between farming, science, art, design, roll-up-your-sleeves hard work, and visionary thinking,” says Gordon. “I also appreciate how each bottle of great wine is like a snapshot of a specific place and time. These are the stories I like to tell.”
In 2007, eager to gain a broader and more nuanced understanding of the industry, Gordon joined Regal Wine Company, where he spent three years representing some of the world’s most famous wineries, including iconic Napa Valley mountain producers like Cardinale, Lokoya and Mt. Brave. Fascinated by these wines, Gordon joined the team at Chappellet, where he learned from mentor Steve Tamburelli, before being named the director of consumer sales and hospitality for Ladera Vineyards in 2010. At Ladera, Gordon oversaw all aspects of the family-run winery’s DTC and hospitality program on Howell Mountain. “My time at Ladera was a wonderful opportunity to refine my experiential and relationship-driven approach to hospitality, sales and marketing,” says Gordon. “There are thousands of wineries in California. The great ones build authentic, meaningful connections with their customers.”
After Ladera, Gordon spent two years as the wine club manager for Silverado Vineyards, before joining the Acumen team as director of sales in 2014. “Coming to Acumen was the culmination of everything I had learned, and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help build a world-class winery from the ground up.” Working with Founder Eric Yuan, and Executive Manager and Director of Winemaking Henrik Poulsen, Gordon helps to guide the long-term vision and stylistic direction of Acumen’s wines, while overseeing the winery’s North American and international sales program. “Acumen has such a clear and exciting vision, and the values to achieve it,” adds Gordon. “We are committed to bringing the wines of Atlas Peak to the world, while establishing Acumen as the benchmark for our region. This isn’t something that can be achieved through marketing—it’s about the amazing team we’ve brought together, the intimate way we cultivate our vineyards, the uniqueness of our terroir, and the exceptional quality of our wines. For the first time in my career, I feel like I am a part of building something that I can dedicate the rest of my professional life to. It is incredibly fulfilling.”